This recipe brings back some memories. This is the very first recipe that I made for my wife about 10 years ago. I remember reading the recipe in GQ magazine (of all places) and thinking to myself that this would taste great- what a great dish to impress her with my cooking abilities. Well, as it turns out, the dish came out really well and I guess that it was impressive enough for her to stick with me this long! Since then, I have probably made this recipe about a dozen times. What I have learned since the first time is that it is a relatively foolproof recipe so the success should be attributed more to the recipe author than anywhere else.
The pork is braised in this recipe in wine and the puree from the canned tomatoes. Typically, I would not braise a pork tenderloin because there isn’t enough fat in the cut to stay moist. For this recipe, it works for some reason. One note: do not overcook the pork! Toward the end of the cooking process, check the temperature- I look for an interior temperature of about 140 degrees. The pork will continue to cook to with carry-over cooking while it is resting. Please be sure to cook the meat to your desired doneness.
Keep in mind that pork tenderloins come in packages of 2 for some reason. You’re going to need them both for this recipe to serve six. We’ll walk through cleaning them in the recipe. We serve this dish over pasta, but it would be equally good over some rice. Your choice. For the sauce you have a couple finishing options: leave it somewhat rustic or shoot it through a food mill. I typically leave the sauce as is- it is just so tasty there isn’t much that needs to be done to it. Let’s jump in!
1 pork tenderloin package- about 2.5 lbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium or 2 large yellow or white onions, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
1 can whole Italian plum tomatoes
1 box penne pasta
Parmesan cheese for grating
Butcher’s twine for the loins.
Okay- let’s get the oven set to 300 degrees. While it is heating up, take the tenderloins out of the package. The first thing to do is pat them dry with paper towels. With a boning or utility knife, cut off any fat that’s just hanging out. Then find the silver skin. This is the part of the tenderloin that looks white and shiny. If you don’t take this out, it will be really chewy. What we are going to do is lay the tenderloin on the cutting board with the silver skin on the top and facing the right side of the board. About an inch from the right side of the loin, slip the tip of your knife under the silver skin. With your left hand holding the tenderloin, use the other to cut under the silver skin out the right side of the loin. Now turn the loin over so the silver skin is still on the top but facing the left side of your cutting board. Use the part you just cut as a flap to hold onto with your left hand. Put your knife blade under the flap and cut the remainder of the silver skin out. Ok- hopefully that went well. Repeat on the other loin. When you are done, make a 1 inch deep cut down the length of both loins. **See Note**
Next, mash the garlic and parsley together to make a paste. I used the side of my knife blade, dragging it and pressing down across my cutting board smashing the garlic and parsley together. If this seems extreme to you, use a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, really finely chop the garlic and parsley together. Take the paste and divide in two equal portions. Use one portion per loin and pack the cut you made with the paste. Next, tie the loins with butcher’s twine. **See Note**
**Note** If you are not comfortable using butcher’s twine, you can make four or five incisions down the length of each loin and simply pack them up with the paste. I like the flavor to be uniform throughout the loin, so I use the twine. When I first started cooking this dish, I made the incisions.
Okay, whether you wrapped the loin in twine or made incisions, it’s time to season the loins. Liberally coat with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Take out a large skillet or dutch oven and heat over high heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of the butter and 1 of the olive oil. When the pan is hot, reduce to medium-high heat, add the loins and brown on all sides. When the loins are browned, remove from the pan and set aside in a 9X13 baking dish.
Add the onions and carrots to the pan. Sauté for seven minutes over medium heat. Add the oregano, basil, red-pepper flakes, wine and tomatoes. Simmer for ten minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as they cook. Pour the tomato mixture over the loins in the baking dish. Cover with foil and toss into the oven for about 2 hours.
Something to keep in mind is that the pork can easily overcook if you don’t have the pasta ready. After an hour and a half, I start the water for the pasta (I know that my pasta pot takes about 20 minutes to come to a boil- you will need to adjust the time for your pot). Take out a large pot and fill with water. When it has come to a boil, add in a good amount of salt. Wait until it returns to a hard boil and then add in the pasta. Cook to the desired tenderness. Drain and set aside.
Take the pork out of the oven and check that it has achieved the appropriate internal temperature. They say that 165 is appropriate, but I find that the meat is completely dry and devoid of all flavor at that temperature. I cook mine to 140 and let it carry-over cook for about seven minutes while it rests (PLEASE cook the meat to your level of preference). Remember to let the meat rest in the braising liquid. After the meat has rested, remove from the braising liquid. Remove the twine (if used) and slice the pork.
I serve this dish in bowls because the sauce is a little bit thin if you don’t run it through a food mill. Toss some of the pasta in a bowl and top with a scoop of the tomato sauce. Top with a couple slices of the pork and a touch more sauce. Finish with some freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley. Serve with a nice Italian wine: a Barolo or a Chianti work great with this dish. Serve piping hot and enjoy!